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A Eulogy for MIX

"...there will be no MIX 2012." And with that, Tim O’Brien, Microsoft's general manager for developer & platform evangelism, let the air out of the balloon for many of the devs who look forward to MIX like no other conference.

O'Brien listed a number of reasons for killing off MIX after a very successful five-year run: that Web development shouldn't be seen as a separate undertaking from standard Windows development; that developers, reporters, analysts and tech bloggers were confused about which event to attend; and lastly, that Microsoft's army of software engineers have too many other duties to take time out and prepare for a conference.

I'm sure all the reasons have some degree of validity. But, frankly, even adding all of them up doesn't warrant cancelling a show, in my opinion. All the problems could be overcome.

As to the first reason: I don't know why breaking out Web development as a separate conference means Microsoft has somehow muddled the message. If you're an ASP.NET developer, this was probably your No. 1 show to attend, given its focus. This is a bad thing how, exactly? And does this mean Microsoft would not consider, for example, a show focused solely on mobile development with Windows 8/Metro? Couldn't one use exactly the same argument?

As to the confusion among the masses, I'm not sure Microsoft is giving its audience enough credit. I believe we're all big boys, and can figure out for ourselves which shows have the most value. Choice is good; and the more choice in conferences, the better. The ones I didn't think were for me, I didn't go to.

Finally, the time it takes away from engineering: It would be my guess (and it's *only* a guess) that this is the primary reason for the cancellation. There may have been lots squeaks from the engineering wheels, necessitating the grease. If that's the case, I'm a bit surprised Microsoft didn't order its engineers to cut back on other shows instead, and keep MIX in the, uh, mix. And, of course, those engineers still have to prepare for TechEd, BUILD (if it continues under that brand), and other shows. Why is it different for MIX?

But MIX has (whoops, had) value beyond just the technical knowledge it imparted: it was part of Microsoft's brand, got consistently strong press coverage, and helped raise the profile in an area of weakness for the company. In many ways, Microsoft is still seen to some degree as a legacy company that makes heavy software for desktops and servers. MIX was more of a cutting-edge conference in my mind, more forward-looking in its topic coverage. And it could easily have transformed into a Web/mobile dev show.

In the end, though, MIX is gone, just like PDC before it. The BUILD conference last year was a huge success; maybe that picks up the mantle. But I can't say I'm not a little disappointed, and saddened, to see the end of a great show.

Am I off base here? Will you miss MIX, or do you feel it was time for it to go? Let me know via email or in the comments below.

Posted by Keith Ward on 01/25/2012

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